COUNCIL plans to destroy Jessel Green have been tentatively backed by the town’s MP, despite her calling for the protection of green spaces in a 2008 parliamentary amendment.

Since proposals were announced last year, more than 5,000 people have signed a petition urging Epping Forest District Council to scrap its plans to build 154 homes on the public Loughton field.

Not amongst their number was Conservative MP Eleanor Laing, who was quiet on the issue beyond telling enquiring residents that the council’s Local Plan followed a ‘carefully devised democratic process’.

This week she again backed the council, explaining the protection of green spaces must be balanced against the need for housing in the area.

Mrs Laing also denied charges of hypocrisy, in light of a failed amendment she and 11 other MPs tabled in 2008 urging that ‘special regard shall be had to the desirability of preserving gardens and urban green spaces.’

The amendment asked that ‘green spaces’ be defined as ‘land used for the purposes of public recreation; or an area of open space which benefits wildlife and biodiversity’.

Mrs Laing said: “I haven't changed my mind one bit. What I have to do as an MP is to consider the views of everybody in my constituency.

“The district council has come up with a plan which would preserve some of Jessel Green but also use some of it for homes.

“I also have a lot of people coming to me saying they are desperate for a home in the area.

“I would not for a moment consider building on the whole of Jessel Green. Absolutely not.

“I would say it is certainly not hypocrisy. I still stand by what I said in 2008 and what I have always said.

“The preservation of green belt and of our green spaces is very important but I represent the needs of all 75,000 people across my constituency and my heart goes out to all the people who tell me they are desperate for a home.”

Stephen Murray, an independent councillor who is seeking a tenth term this May, was not convinced by Mrs Laing’s argument.

He drew attention to her home town of Theydon Bois, which has ten times less houses per square-mile allocated to it under the Local Plan than Loughton - according to analysis by the Loughton Residents Association.

He said: “Her failure to speak in defence of Jessel Green has been deafening. Her silence has been deafening.

“I would have had her make it really clear that she understands the importance of Jessel Green for the people of Loughton.

“I also think that Jessel Green was treated so differently from Theydon Bois and I wish the double standard in treatment was called out by her.”